Julie Andrews To Pen Second Memoir

With the 50th anniversary of the movie, The Sound of Music, comes not only an ABC Special with Diane Sawyer and Julie Andrews, but also a big book announcement from the musical actress.

According to Entertainment Weekly, Julie Andrews will be publishing her second memoir, to be released in 2017. The actress is best known for her roles in The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, and Victor/Victoria, but she says there’s more to her than those movies.

She released her first memoir, Home, in 2008 (which I own, but have yet to read, so stay tuned for my inevitable review!). Home focused on her early children and stage career. Her follow-up is set to cover her now world-famous career from the 1960s to the 1990s.

The new memoir doesn’t yet have a title, but is expected to be released in September of 2017.

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Review: At the Water’s Edge

Recap: The world takes Maddie Hyde by storm when, in 1945, her husband Ellis and his best friend, Hank, whisk her away to Scotland to search for the Loch Ness Monster. It sounds silly, but the search is very real for Hank and especially Ellis, whose father tried and failed to find it himself, thereby making a national fool of himself. Now Ellis is set on redeeming his father and proving his worth by finding the monster himself.

But as the three leave their socialite home of Philadelphia for a shabby inn/restaurant in Scotland, they realize their lives can’t be any more different from those who live by the sea. Day in and day out, Hank and Ellis spend their time looking for the loch and getting good and drunk. This leaves Maddie to her own devices at the inn, where she eventually befriends the staff. The longer Ellis is gone, the drunker he gets, and the more abusive he acts toward Maddie — both emotionally and verbally. Maddie soon notices many of her prescription pills are missing, and she’s correct in assuming Ellis is taking them. The time spent in Scotland opens Maddie’s eyes to the man her husband truly is and makes her wonder where her life is going from here — her own internal war as WWII rages on in Europe and as her husband struggles to find the Loch Ness Monster and his own worthiness.

AnalysisAt the Water’s Edge is ripe with metaphors in a beautiful, if not mildly overstated, way. Initially, the search for the Loch Ness Monster comes across as silly — surprising at the very least, especially coming from bestselling Water for Elephants author Sara Gruen. But as the story continues, the existence of the loch becomes less important.  It becomes clear that the monster is a metaphor for all of the other monsters in Maddie’s life — Hitler, her husband, her lack of family support. In the end, when she confronts all these monsters simultaneously, it happens — where else? — at the water’s edge. Yet another metaphor for her imminent rebirth and fresh start, of which she is entirely deserving.

While the metaphors are well-devised, so is the structure of the novel, which starts off with a brief scene that takes place three years before the start of Maddie’s story. When those two story lines eventually converge, it’s done in a way that made me say “Ohhhhhhh” out loud. It takes some time, but it all starts to come together, and the book picks up momentum from there. It’s hard to tell where Gruen is going with the novel, but that uncertainty is refreshing, as is the ending of the novel. Maddie’s empowering development is similar to that which Gruen writes about in Water for Elephants, and this book is likely to have the same success.

MVP: Maddie. She grew up feeling so undeserving of anything, but as it turns out, she is the most deserving of good things. It’s just a matter of pushing herself to realize that. When she does, she blossoms, and that self-discovery is exciting to experience.

Get At the Water’s Edge in hardcover for $20.72.

Or on your Kindle for $11.84.

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Book Cover Revealed for Harper Lee’s New Book

It wasn’t too long ago that word got out that the bestselling author of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee, would be releasing a “new” book. “New” is relative as Harper Lee actually wrote Go Set a Watchman years ago. But with its expected arrival on July 14th, HarperCollins has now released the book jacket for the novel, printed exclusively by People

The cover is rather similar to the cover of To Kill a Mockingbird, which is a prequel to Lee’s latest venture.

With HarperCollins already planning to print 2 million copies of Harper Lee’s latest novel, the publishing company is expecting Go Set a Watchman to be a huge hit.

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Movie vs. Book: Insurgent

**Spoiler Alert: Because of the popularity of both this book and movie, this review does include spoilers. 

Insurgent picks up where author Veronica Roth’s Divergent left off — with Tris, Four, Caleb, Peter and Marcus living in the Amity faction, waiting to decide their next move after narrowly escaping the attempted takeover and attack lead by Jeanine. Tris is still reeling from the death of her parents, and tensions continue to run high between Four and Tris and Peter. But when Erudite and Dauntless traitors arrive to search for Abnegation, Tris, Four and Caleb escape and meet up with the Factionless. After that, all hell breaks loose as factions try to combine to either fight off or fight for Jeanine and whatever plans she has. But Tris learns Jeanine has an important secret that involves her parents — one that she must find while also protecting the lives on the innocent.

That general story holds true in the movie version of the bestselling novel. That said, I have never seen a movie that veers so differently from the novel upon which it’s based. First of all, the movie leaves out Marcus almost entirely. As Four’s father, Marcus is the one from whom Tris learns how important her parents’ secret is. Much of the book involves Tris backing Marcus and working to get her hands on that information — a move that causes some friction between Tris and Four. But with Marcus barely in the movie, all of that friction is gone.

Not to mention, the movie objectifies that secret into a box, which Jeanine is working hard to unlock. It seems like we’re to believe that Jeanine doesn’t know what the secret is and needs a Divergent to open it by passing simulations for all five factions. In the book, Jeanine does make Tris do simulations, but it’s not to unlock a box of secrets. In the book, the reason is so she can figure out a serum that will actually affect Divergents.

The way the secret comes out is completely different in the movie than In the book. In the book, Jeanine has the secret information hidden on her computer. The information is accessed near the end of the novel as part a team effort between Tris, Christina, Marcus and several others infiltrating Jeanine’s facility and computer. But that entire section is left out of the movie.

On top of all this, three of the four major deaths in the book are either left out or changed in the movie. Lynn’s death is left out entirely. Four kills Eric in both, but in the book, Eric is put on trial and then killed. There is no trial or Dauntless leaders in the movie. Then there’s Jeanine’s death.  In the book, Tori kills her, despite Tris trying to fight Tori on it. But in the movie, Evelyn kills Jeanine, with no fight from anyone.

These are just the major changes. There are lots of other minor ones. Not having read the third book in the series, Allegiant, it’s hard for me to determine if and how these changes may affect the third movie. And granted, the movie was still excellent, action-packed and exciting. But it was so different from the book, I found myself having a hard time cheering at the end.

Get Insurgent in paperback for $10.68.

Or on your Kindle for $3.99.

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Movie vs. Book: Unbroken

The life of Louie Zamperini is an incredible one. He’s a man who seemed to live nine lives before finally dying at the age of 97 just last year — mere months before the movie about his life came out. Unbroken, the movie, is based on the bestselling book by Laura Hillenbrand. It’s a look at the amazing life and courage of Zamperini, who not only ran in the Olympics as a young man, but then went on to fight in WWII, have his plane crash in the ocean, survive on a raft for 47 days only to be captured and tortured for the next two years in a Japanese POW camp.

The book tells the story of his life in extraordinary detail — including passages about his friends in the war, about the duck with whom he becomes friends, and about the evil Japanese soldier, nicknamed “The Bird,” who focuses much of his energy of torturing Louie. While the Angelina Jolie-directed movie exudes the right tone and properly tells the general story of his life, it does leave out some memorable moments and important details from the book, and certain things feel watered down.

For instance, there are two other men on the raft with Zamperini after his plane is shot down — one of whom, in the book, eventually gives up on trying to stay alive and subsequently dies. But that is not portrayed well in the movie. In fact, the person who saw it with me asked how he died. He found it hard to follow what caused his death, and I had to explain that ultimately he gave up and his body gave out. The same goes for the portrayal of Louie’s arch nemesis, “The Bird.” While it’s clear that he’s evil, it wasn’t inherently clear in the movie that “The Bird” specifically had it out for Zamperini.

The movie also leaves out the duck — a detail that takes on more significance when the duck is brutally killed in the book.  As it turns out, that was a specific choice made by Jolie, according to Entertainment Weekly. And what’s worse — the movie leaves out the entire last section of the book, which delves into Zamperini’s struggle with PTSD and alcoholism after returning home to the war — an element which only added to the laundry list of things the man had been through and survived, an element that makes him only appear greater.

Of course, the movie would have been far too long with that section. And of course, Louie Zamperini would have been proud of and happy with the movie no matter what. Could it have used some work? Certainly. But the feeling of hope and optimism along with the sense that if the human spirit can overcome anything and everything is still there at the end of the movie, and that’s arguably the best and most important thing to take away from both the book and Louie Zamperini’s life.

Get Unbroken in paperback for $9.60.

Or get it on your Kindle for $4.99.

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Review: The Girl on the Train

Recap: Rachel rides the train two hours a day from home to her office in London. Much of that train ride is spent drinking, and most of it is spent thinking about, staring at, or creating a fake backstory for the people who live in a house she passes on her ride. Rachel has become obsessed with the attractive couple who lives there, not only because they’re along her train route, but also because they live down the street from her old house, where she once resided with her ex-husband.

Her ex, Tom, has since remarried and has a child with his new wife, Anna. But Rachel isn’t as estranged from Tom as he and Anna would like her to be. Rachel’s drunken days and nights have done nothing but lead to dozens of phone calls to Tom and countless embarrassing moments.

But one day, Rachel witnesses something while she’s on the train — a moment involving the woman with whom she’s obsessed. So when that woman goes missing the next day, Rachel realizes she might have a very important and useful clue. She reports it, and quickly finds herself completely wrapped up in the mystery. But with all her drinking and knowledge not more valuable than that of a girl on the train, investigators and those involved don’t know whether to trust her.

AnalysisThe Girl on the Train has been touted as “the next Gone Girl.” It’s a bestseller that has flown off the shelves in the last several months. It’s obvious why. Its similarities to Gone Girl are strong — chapters alternating between the perspectives of several different characters, unreliable narrators, and a suspenseful mystery, mixed with a fair amount of violence. But there are differences too. The end of the novel is sadder than Gone Girl, but better justified.

Ultimately, The Girl on the Train is a page-turner, even to the final pages. Just when I thought the story was over, it wasn’t. The book is full of twists and turns, and each character is more pathetic and crazy than the next. Even as we, as the reader, are inside the heads of several characters, they each have so many issues, it’s hard to tell what they’re actually thinking and where the story will actually go. Dark and twisty, The Girl on the Train is compelling and raises the question how well do you really know anybody?

MVP: Rachel. She is a hot mess. Most of the book, I cringed on her behalf, wondering why she couldn’t get it together. But I wanted her to be right, and despite her repeated failures and embarrassment, she’s never gave up, and resilience is commendable.

Get The Girl on the Train in hardcover for $16.17.

Or on your Kindle for $6.99.

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Real-Life Hogwarts On the Way?

There are no more books and no more movies, but now Harry Potter fans have something to look forward to: a real-life Hogwarts may be on the way.

According to Entertainment WeeklyCollege of Wizardry is a four-day wizard school LARP (live action role playing) event that allows people to play wizard dress-up — learning the “magical arts,” meeting creatures and doing it all in a castle in Poland.

Yes, this is a real thing, a very real thing. So real, in fact, that College of Wizardry has a crowd funding site to raise the $50,000 it costs to host three sessions in November. One of these LARP events already played out for real in November 2014, and the sessions for April 2015 are already sold out.

But wait — there’s more! Now the founders are hoping to raise $1 million dollars by the end of their campaign, which is April 29th. If they do it, they plan to use the money to buy a castle.

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